The Munster valley

In the Protestants' steps

Soultzeren © Guy Wurth

Soultzeren © Guy Wurth

Gunsbach - Munster - Muhlbach - Soultzeren

After the Peasants’ Revolt of 1525, three quarters of the population in the valley were won over by the ideas of the Reformation. The first Protestant parish in the valley was started in Munster in 1543. It gathered peasants and shepherds, driven by their desire for freedom, as they faced Catholic oppression instituted by the Benedictine abbey. From then on the spiritual harmony in the valley went through many ups and downs, with periods of peace (Kientzenheim treaty in 1575) and devastating tensions (the Thirty years’ war 1618-1648). However, this valley that for many centuries was a land of wars was also the birthplace of the famous Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1952. Follow in his footsteps and at the same time visit the other churches in the valley!


In Gunsbach, a one-kilometre trail goes through the village and its heights with 16 markers to guide you. Each of them has a quote or a detail of Schweitzer’s life. Starting at the former vicarage, 3 rue Schweitzer, visit the “African museum” on the first floor of the town hall. It has an interesting collection of African pieces of art and utensils that Schweitzer brought back from Gabon.

You can then walk up to the “Schweitzer monument”, a sculpture carved in Vosgian sandstone by Fritz Behn, a disciple of Rodin, erected in 1969 on the Kranzrain.


Back on the road towards Munster, do not miss the Albert Schweitzer museum at the number 8, which houses various writings of the Nobel Peace Prize winner. The bedroom, study and staircase are packed with objects and photos that share the man’s life and thoughts.
Open all year round from Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 9 to 11am and from 2 to 4:30 pm, except in January when it is closed.


For the last stop in the village, take a look at Gunsbach’s 15th century simultaneous church. It was also marked by Schweitzer, as you may see by its organ, designed and made according to his own plans.


Now go to Munster and its Protestant church (place du Marché). Built in 1868 and 1873, this neo-Romanesque building was restored after the first World War. Its stained glass windows and sculptures are worth a visit; they also give an admirable message of faith and hope, as well as reminding us of the essence of Christianity.


Carry on 4 km to the church in Muhlbach (going towards Metzeral), which was completely rebuilt after the First World War. On the front of the church that was opened in 1930, one can make out the verse of a hymn written by Luther, which can by translated from German as “God is our refuge and our strength”. The building is light and sober, and bears neo-Romanesque and “Modern style” architectural details.


Go back towards Munster and take the Soultzeren direction to visit its church and stained glass windows. Made in 1924, they evoke the evacuation of the inhabitants of the village between 1915 and 1919. A woman, children and an old man, dressed in the valley’s costume, leave the village reddened by fire. The pastor, Henri Birmelé, who accompanied the evacuated parish and participated in its reconstruction between 1919 and 1926, gave a meaning to this period through the verse in Hebrews 13:14 “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” He called upon them to put into perspective what had been lost in this insecure world and to keep hope.


On your way back, you may want to stop for a time of prayer or for a break with the Hohrodberg Sisters. Founded in 1979 by the Deaconesses’ Community in Strasbourg, the centre welcomes all those who wish to share this community’s lifestyle: prayer, sharing, communion, meals…


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